For the seventh time, some of the top fishing pros, guides and personalities around descended upon Little Falls for the annual Fishing with the Pros Fundraiser, April 11.
The event is put on by the Minnesota Fishing Museum and offers a rare chance to interact with some of the top figures the fishing world has to offer.
“There is not another event in the state where this type of gathering happens,” said Mavis Buker, Minnesota Fishing Museum executive director. “Usually the pros are out promoting products for their sponsors, leading seminars, etc., so when they see each other it is in the context of work.
“This event gives them a chance to connect with each other as well as with the public,” she said. “We are thrilled to be able to have these leaders and mentors in the field give us their support. We are honored that they are entrusting us with their legacies.”
There were 33 pros and more than 260 people total at the event.
While catching up with all of the pros would have contained stories tall and small to fill a few years’ worth of fishing previews, a trio shared what brought them to Little Falls, and has kept them coming back.
Shelly Holland, one of the premier guides in the business, returned to the event for the third time and plans to keep coming back.
“I love this event,” Holland said. “It’s so fun to be around people who love to fish as much as I do. All the storytelling is very inspiring. Every time I leave the event I’m very pumped up to go fishing.
“It’s always fun to have pro fishers and novices together,” she said. “You really get reminded how great fun fishing is. You can really feel all the energy in the room when story after story is being told. And I know with each story a pro tells there’s a novice that can totally relate. When I’m sitting at the table with the novice group, we share fishing stories and show pictures of some of our best catches off our phones,” she said. “I love hearing there stories as much as the pros. We all laugh and relate to what’s being told.”
Holland also enjoys visiting the museum to capture the changes fishing has undergone over time.
“I love being able to look back into the history of fishing,” she said. “Some day our ways of fishing will be history. The Minnesota Fishing Museum does an excellent job.”
For anyone that has picked up a fishing rod the past 30 years, there’s a decent chance Gary Roach has had a direct impact on them.
Roach, designer of more than 30 different rods in four different series, is known as “Mr. Walleye,” and spoke of the enjoyment that comes with being able to share his and other pros’ expertise at the event for his second year.
“Just rubbing elbows with the pros is a really nice deal,” Roach said. “They bid for a table or sign up for whoever they want to sit with. Then they introduce all the pros and what they’ve done.”
Roach told a story of how he won the first bass tournament held in Minnesota … back in 1971.
The event held special significance for Roach, as he and his wife shared their first dance together at the Falls Ballroom before they were married and he went into the Navy.
Mike Kurre, Mentoring Program and State Record Fish Coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, has an ideal platform to influence a wide audience of individuals and families to get involved with fishing.
Kurre averages 140 to 150 weekly radio shows per year over several stations, the largest being as part of Fan Outdoors for about 20 years with KFAN out of the Twin Cities.
“I truly love sharing skills, equipment, places and adventures with the listeners while having fun,” he said. “Radio has been a great platform and I’ve met the elite outdoors folks in the industry, but it’s hearing about all the stories and photos from the listeners using what we’ve shared with them that really gets me fired up.”
It was Kurre’s second trip to the event, an opportunity to share his love of the outdoors he deemed a “no-brainer.”
“It’s hard to say no to an opportunity to rub elbows with the icons of the fishing community,” Kurre said. “Especially when these anglers are so passionate about sharing their knowledge with young and old alike. It’s my job and passion to do the same.
With the state Department of Natural Resources, he spends a lot of time with youth, but stressed the importance of getting the entire family involved.
“If we hook the kids and the family unit doesn’t support the youth, it would be a one-time catch and release sort of scenario with little to show for results for the long haul,” he said. “Since we need good stewards of the outdoors to continue the traditions and heritage we have here in Minnesota, it’s imperative we get ‘em early, provide positive multiple experiences, teach them where to go, offer the right size equipment, education them to respect the resources and deliver the social support needed to appreciate the outdoors.”